In an ideal world, education would be free of discrimination and educators would be effective champions of diversity, equity and inclusion. Sadly, we don’t live in that perfect world. And nothing is a greater reminder of this than the fact that Betsy DeVos is in charge of the nation’s Education Department. A woman who has no qualifications whatsoever to lead legislation, policy or protect the civil rights for the millions of students in the country is in charge of almost $70 billion in federal funding for schools. DeVos claims to be working on behalf of all students and against discrimination. But she has a bizarre way of showing it. In fact, she has a history of supporting discriminatory groups, who were recently speakers at an event at the Education Department.
Members of the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, two conservative Christian groups with a history of support from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ family, were among the speakers at Thursday’s Education Department conference on family engagement. [...]
Family Research Council and Focus on the Family have been heavily criticized for promoting anti-LGBT causes. So their invite to the “Engaging Families and Fathers” event, which aimed to encourage fathers to get involved in the education of their children, raised some eyebrows.
A conference on family engagement sounds like an important event. In fact, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that suggests that when parents are involved in their children’s education, students get better grades, score higher on standardized tests, and tend to stay in school. This is particularly relevant for children growing up in impoverished communities. So it is a good thing to encourage and promote families having a role in their children’s education. Yet, there are diverse families all across the country. Some with straight parents, some with gay parents, some grandparents raising their grandkids, some extended relatives or foster parents taking on caregiving roles for children. Allowing anti-LGBT groups to take part in this event is a hideous way to demonstrate inclusion and respect for those families. And it shows no respect for students who may be LGBT themselves.
The National Parent Teacher Association withdrew from the conference after learning about the groups’ participation, telling BuzzFeed in a statement that the groups’ views do not align with the PTA’s support of protections for LGBT students.
This really isn’t shocking, though. The DeVos family has contributed millions to Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. These folks are her friends. So even though, during her confirmation hearings she claimed that she doesn’t share their awful, harmful beliefs and believes that all students should be able to go to school and be free of discrimination, her history, and bank account, tell a different story.
During her contentious January confirmation hearing, DeVos attempted to distance herself from her family’s millions in contributions to Focus on the Family, which supports “conversion therapy,” creationism, and traditional gender roles. DeVos’ father, Edgar Prince, donated millions of dollars toward the founding of the Family Research Council, which has been classified as an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
It’s worth noting that DeVos wasn’t actually at the event on Thursday. But are we surprised? Many bigots rarely like to show their hate and discrimination when cameras are rolling (although this administration has certainly made bigotry acceptable again). But we don’t need to see Betsy palling around with her hateful friends at a conference at the Education Department to know that she supports them. Her own behavior and words (she won’t even commit to pulling funding from private schools that discriminate against students based on sexual orientation) do that for her.